10 Questions with ... Kevin Vargas
June 12, 2012
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- KiiK/Davenport, IA (1977)
- WWCT/Peoria, IL (1983)
- KWHL/Anchorage, AK (1984)
- KKLZ/Las Vegas, NV (1987)
- WAZU/Dayton, OH (1989)
- WAFX/Norfolk, VA (1991)
- The Underground/Annapolis-Baltimore, MD (1992)
- KISS/San Antonio, TX (1993)
- WHDR (93 Rock)/Miami-Hollywood-Ft. Lauderdale, FL (2005)
- KHPT (The Zone)/Houston, TX (2011)
1) What was your first job in radio? Early influences?
I grew up listening to Chicago radio during the glorious '60s and '70s Top 40 days, and the early days of the emerging AOR. Stations and personalities were larger than life companions. KiiK was a "little" version of WLS so I made that my goal for my first commercial radio job while at Augustana College in Rock Island, IL
2) What led you to a career in radio? Was there a defining moment that made you realize "this is it"?
I went to school with a plan to do sports journalism. I was a huge fan of radio, but never thought I could do it until I tried it. Over the years I found I had the aptitude to do this. But the defining moment came after being released from KiiK after it moved from Top 40 to AC. I set and met a goal of getting on a great AOR station. In college I got to interview legendary WLS Morning God Larry Lujack, who gave me the advice, "You're no one until you've been fired. Once you've been rehired, you realize nothing will ever stop you."
3) What makes your station or market unique?
Within the full potential listening audience and fan base exists a massive population that will never contribute to our ratings, but they can add to our digital numbers and attend events. That creates targeting variables creating special considerations. San Diego and McAllen-Brownsville may be the only other bigger markets that such circumstances impact. The 82% Hispanic population is a lot of assimilated and second, third, etc.-generation Mexican. They are all about family, and they're loyal and passionate to what they love. Arbitron has its own unique sample challenges hindered by of cultural factors. I've been studying the historical numbers of El Paso and in 35+ years I've never seen such dramatic fluctuations. How does this compare to other markets or stations you have worked at? Very similar to San Antonio, nothing like Miami, the two other highest concentration Hispanic markets I've worked in.
4) How do you feel terrestrial radio competes with the satellite radio and Internet these days?
Focusing on building strong brands and being a great LOCAL station is the way to win no matter who the competition was 10 years ago, is today, or will be in 10 years. So where do you see the industry and yourself five years from now? Read the main page of the Townsquare Media website, that's a prime reason I took this job. I think they've got the best grasp on how to evolve from just a broadcast brand to a media brand, so I hope in five years I'm still around doing something with more responsibility and income. I've never been afraid of proving myself and earning my place.
5) How is the relationship between programmer and record label changing? For better or worse?
My relationship is has it's always been, based on honesty and respect. Tell me your priorities and if they align with the station's, we can be good business partners in artist development. We need people to care about the artists we play as much as the labels want to make them to matter.
6) What is the biggest change that you'd like to see happen in the business?
Rock artists show the love back to radio like Country artists do. There are artists and managements trying to change this, but nowhere near the degree that benefits Country radio. Just look at the relationships being cultivated at loudwire.com; it would be great if that became representative on an individual station level.
7) Who is your favorite air personality not on your staff?
Toni Gonzalez, now on Coast in Miami. Before 93 Rock went down she was delivering clever and unpredictable content with the best batting average for never missing an opportunity. I also still love checking out Bubba The Love Sponge. How he talks to and about Tampa is a playbook for how to become a local icon.
Who are some great Rock stations not in your cluster?
The Buzz in Houston. If Rod Ryan wasn't so damn good we might have had a shot. TSM's WGRD is a great station and consistent winner. Props to Hal Fish for what he's been able to do for so long in Columbus. Jave Patterson has made KDOT in Reno something special. And there's more but you'll cut me off because of word count.
8) What's your take on current music? Is it as good as six months ago, better, or about the same?
Better. We NEED our superstars to make good songs, and we need those who make good songs to become superstars. Want to help the cause of people caring about what you play, tell your air talent to create identity and sell the artists ... champion your music.
9) Tell us what music we would find on your car or home CD player (or turntable) right now and what is it you enjoy about that particular selection?
I'll tell you the six artists in my CD changer right now: Tito & Tarantula, ZZ Top, Brantley Gilbert, Rush, the JaneDear Girls, Korn.
10) What's the closest you ever came to getting arrested for an on-air stunt? Or did you actually get arrested?
For the 100th anniversary of the bra, I held the "Big Boob Bounty" (for cash prizes) and was hanging bras off the courthouse in downtown Dayton. About halfway through, someone said take them down or you're going to jail. I said "yes" and did the touchdown dance but my PD at the time said no. He was afraid for my safety; I figured a few hours was worth the publicity.
What is your favorite TV show?
True Blood, Walking Dead, Supernatural...yep, I'm somewhat a Gore Geek.
Favorite artist you have met?
I've got so many stories this is tough ... the times playing golf with Godsmack, watching hockey with Nickelback, but my favorite involves a movie theater and Alice Cooper. The short version moral to the story -- If you'd have told me as a 15-year-old ... Alice offering me, "Hey Kev, want some (pop) corn."
Name the artist/act (living or dead) you'd love to meet and why?
Elvis ... you have to ask why?
What was the first song or full-length release you purchased?
The Monkees, "Headquarters" (R.I.P. Davy).
What do you like best about your market?
I like living in El Paso. This is such a misunderstood treasure of city. Least? How misunderstood El Paso is and how people like Texas Governor Rick Perry keep making incorrect statements that fuel the negative perceptions.
What do like most about your new job?
Two things: multiple station responsibilities, and after Houston I wanted a win in a big way. Of all my options, I saw KLAQ was an opportunity to take a good station and turn up the heat ... right place, right time, right now. Plus the foundations are solid. KLAQ and KSII are both mature products with morning shows (Buzz Adams on Q; Mike & Tricia on Kiss) knocking it out of the park. I tweaked KLAQ a couple months ago (Feb.), and we just freshened KSII in April. Initial monthlies look very promising and I could never have hoped the growth we're seeing would come this quickly. Check back June 22nd, and then again July 20th, because we could have one hell of a story, especially on Q because of our "rock-is-dead" format.